Awaiting The Perils of Urban Success
During a talk I gave last week about Philadelphia's strange conjunction of a condo boom and a planning vacuum, one questioner asked whether I thought the city's new affluence would drive out middle and low income residents. I don't believe Philadelphia's overall housing costs are there yet, although obviously such things as school quality, safety and public amenities play an important role when people decide where to live. I think it's fair to say that the boom has been very, very good for Philadelphia. While housing costs have certainly risen in Center City and the neighborhoods that ring the core, there are still acres and blocks to go before Philadelphia runs out of affordable housing.
Still, the possibility that American cities will become the exclusive playgrounds of the rich - a phenomenon dubbed "inversion" by demographers - is something writers in other affluent centers are increasingly starting to fret about. There have been several good articles on the subject recently. The one by Alan Ehrenhalt in Governing suggests that the raging condo boom and high real estate prices in cities like Vancouver could ultimately drive out offices, commerce - and jobs. Janny Scott's piece in the New York Times this weekend focuses more directly on the rich displacing the poor. Meanwhile, Christopher Hume in the Toronto Star worries that rich cities will suck up all the tax resources. In France, inversion has already come to pass in Paris, where the poor are relegated to grim housing and inconvenient commutes on the periphery. Perhaps we could dub the phenomenon, if it ever comes anywhere near Philadelphia, the Paris Syndrome?